Archive for the ‘Acts of the Apostles 25’ Category

Violence and Profaning the Sabbath   1 comment

St. Paul

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle, According to a Bible Salesman’s Book from the 1800s

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor


The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

throughout time you free the oppressed,

heal the sick,

and make whole all that you have made.

Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin,

and by your power restore us to wholeness of life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 31:12-18

Psalm 81:1-10

Acts 25:1-12


For this is a statute of Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob,

The charge he laid on the people of Joseph,

when they came out of the land of Egypt.

–Psalm 81:4-5, Common Worship (2000)


Many provisions of the Law of Moses carried the death penalty.  For example, committing blasphemy and adultery came with the risk of execution.  (This remains true in some cultures, and civilized people condemn these penalties rightly.)  Offenses against the holiness of God also led to the risk of death.  Thus committing religious rituals improperly led to a bad end.  And, in Exodus 31, profaning the Sabbath led to execution, for not keeping the Sabbath holy endangered the definition of Israel, indicated self-reliance (not dependence on God), and hearkened back to the Sabbathless work schedule of Hebrew slaves in Egypt.  And, as St. Paul the Apostle knew well, the mere accusation of having violated the Law of Moses led to the risk of death.  Ironically, his accusers were allies of the Roman Empire, a government at least as oppressive as the Pharaonic regime in Egypt.

I refuse to justify the fetish the Law of Moses had for the death penalty.  In fact, I refuse to make excuses for capital punishment, for I see a moral equivalence between an individual taking a life deliberately and a government doing so.  I also recognize disapprovingly the fondness many religious people and institutions have manifested and continue to manifest for political, social, and economic systems built on enforced inequality, on violence, and on artificial scarcity.

Exodus 31:12-17 also reminds us of holy time, something we ought never to neglect (yet ignore frequently).  We should live as free people dependent on God, not as slaves or cogs in exploitative and violent institutions and systems.  We also need time to reflect, relax, “recharge our batteries,” and just be.  Human dignity needs to assume a more prominent place in our societies, for people should matter more than wealth, property, and commodities.  That ethic–the image of God–ought to inform how we think of others, transforming our attitudes regarding those quite different from us and those whom we dislike and with whom we disagree strongly.  This is, I admit, a challenging spiritual vocation.  It is one with which I struggle, but I continue to try, with mixed results.

As for killing, it is unavoidable sometimes, sadly.  We live in an obviously imperfect world in which people, from time to time, permit circumstances to escalate to the point that death will constitute some part of the resolution one way or another.  I wish that this were not true, but it is the reality too often, “too often” meaning at least once.  Much of the time, however, killing is avoidable yet becomes the reality nevertheless.  I propose that, when one profanes the Sabbath (however one defines the Sabbath in the calendar), killing the profaner is wrong and avoidable.  Whom would Jesus execute?





Adapted from this post:


And the Sea Was No More   1 comment


Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you hold together all things in heaven and on earth.

In your great mercy, receive the prayers of all your children,

and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:5-22 (33rd Day)

Genesis 7:1-24 (34th Day)

Genesis 8:13-19 (35th Day)

Psalm 66:8-20 (All Days)

Acts 27:1-12 (33rd Day)

Acts 27:13-38 (34th Day)

John 14:27-29 (35th Day)


Some Related Posts:

Genesis 6:

Genesis 7:

Genesis 8:

Acts 27:

John 14:


You let enemies ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water;

but you brought us into a place of refreshment.

–Psalm 66:12, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

–Revelation 21:1, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)


Water can be scary, for it has the potential to destroy much property and end lives.  In much of the Bible water signifies chaos.  The first creation myth (Genesis 1:1-2:4a), actually not as old as the one which follows it, depicts a watery chaos as the foundation of an ordered, flat earth with a dome over it.  The lections from Genesis 6-8, being the union of of various texts (as evident in late Chapter 6 and early Chapter 7 with regard to the number of animals to take aboard the Ark), is a composite myth in which water is a force of divine destruction and recreation.  And the water is something to fear in Acts 27.  It is no accident that, in Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem has no sea; the city is free of chaos.

Professor Amy-Jill Levine, in her Teaching Company course, The Old Testament (2001), says that she does not like Noah.  He, in the story, could have tried to save lives if he had argued with God, as Abraham did, she says.  Maybe she has a valid point.  It is certainly one nobody broached in my juvenile or adult Sunday School classes, for my first encounter with the idea came via DVD recently.  Yet the story which the Biblical editor wanted us to hear was one of God’s covenant with Noah.

That theme of covenant fits well with the calm and confidence of St. Paul the Apostle en route to Rome.  He had a legal case arising from preaching (Acts 21:27 forward).  The Apostle had exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal directly to the Emperor (Acts 25:11).  Yet Herod Agrippa II (reigned 50-100), a client ruler of the Roman Empire, had stated that the Apostle could have gone free if he had not appealed to the Emperor (Acts 26:32), who, unfortunately, was Nero.  Anyhow, Paul’s calm and confidence during the storm on the Mediterranean Sea, with the danger on board the ship, came from a positive spiritual place.

That peace is the kind which Jesus bequeaths to us and which the world cannot give.  That peace is the sort which enables one to remain properly–seemingly foolishly, to some–confident during daunting times.  That peace carries one through the chaotic waters and the spiritual wilderness until one arrives at the New Jerusalem.  That peace is available via grace.







Adapted from this post:


1 Samuel and Acts, Part VII: The Triumph of Faith Over Physical Strength   1 comment


Above:  David and Goliath, by Gustave Dore


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:1-23 (July 31)

1 Samuel 17:1-19 (August 1)

1 Samuel 17:20-47 (August 2)

Psalm 65 (Morning–July 31)

Psalm 143 (Morning–August 1)

Psalm 86 (Morning–August 2)

Psalms 125 and 4 (Evening–July 31)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–August 1)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–August 2)

Acts 25:13-27 (July 31)

Acts 26:1-23 (August 1)

Acts 26:24-27:8 (August 2)


Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 16-17:

Acts 25-27:


I was small among my brothers,

and the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

But I drew my own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away

disgrace from the people of Israel.

–Psalm 151, New Revised Standard Version

Saul knows David at the end of 1 Samuel 16 yet has not met him at the beginning of Chapter 17.  This is a major narrative discrepancy, evidence of the weaving together of different documents.  That is a scholarly matter, and I like such things.  But this is a devotional blog, so I focus my attentions in that direction.

A note on page 592 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) begins

The story of David and Goliath demonstrates the triumph of faith over physical strength.

That excellent sentence provides a means for understanding not only 1 Samuel 17 but the life of St. Paul as a Christian.  One man proved crucial to Christian and world history.  The might of the Roman Empire, which executed him, proved powerless to quash Christianity.

As for St. Paul in Acts 25:13-26:32, he stood before Herod Agrippa II, the last of the Herodian Dynasty and a client ruler for the Roman Empire.  Herod Agrippa II’s realm shifted according to Roman imperial decisions, but he did reign from 50 to 100 CE.  He, considered a religious leader, appointed the High Priest yet carried on an incestuous relationship with Bernice, his sister.  Yet this was the man who noted that St. Paul, if he had not appealed to the Emperor, could have gone free.  Unfortunately, the Emperor was Nero.

Yet, as Psalm 125:3 (The New Jerusalem Bible) reads,

The sceptre of the wicked will not come to rest

over the heritage of the upright….







Adapted from this post:


1 Samuel and Acts, Part VI: Rejection and Violence   1 comment


Above:  Antonius Felix


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 13:1-18 (July 28)

1 Samuel 14:47-15:9 (July 29)

1 Samuel 15:10-35 (July 30)

Psalm 67 (Morning–July 28)

Psalm 51 (Morning–July 29)

Psalm 54 (Morning–July 30)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–July 28)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–July 29)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–July 30)

Acts 23:12-35 (July 28)

Acts 24:1-23 (July 29)

Acts 24:24-25:12 (July 30)


A Related Post:

1 Samuel 13-15:


In 1 Samuel we read two accounts of how Samuel and Saul fell out with each other. (These things happen in parts of the Hebrew Scriptures due to the editing together of different sources.)  The first story tells of Saul making an offering Samuel should have performed.  The other version entails Samuel and his soldiers not killing enough people and livestock.  How making an offering or not killing more people and livestock is supposed to offend God eludes me beyond a purely historical-literary critical level of understanding texts and traditions, for I am a liberal Christian and a generally peaceful person.  Violence offends me and ritual sacrifices are foreign to me.

But the rejection of Saul by God occupies the readings from 1 Samuel.  The story of Saul, which ended badly, began with Samuel warning the people that they really did not want a monarch.  Saul’s reign seems to have proven Samuel’s case.  And the reigns of subsequent kings did likewise.

Rejection and violence also figure prominently in the Acts lessons.  Paul evaded plots on his life yet remained in custody for two years.  His offense was, asThe New Jerusalem Bible translates part of 24:5, being

a perfect pest.

That did not justify such extreme measures, though.

Rejection and violence unify the sets of readings.  The God of these lessons is, in the words of Psalm 99:4 (The New Jerusalem Bible), one who

loves justice

and has

established honesty, justice and uprightness.

I recognize that description in Acts 23-25 but not in 1 Samuel 13-15.  That does not indicate a fault within me.







Adapted from this post:


“Follow Me.”   1 comment

Above:  Celtic Cross


Acts 25:13-25 (Revised English Bible):

Some days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived an Caesarea on a courtesy visit to Festus.  They spent some time there, and during their stay Festus raised Paul’s case with the king.

There is a man here,

he said,

left in custody by Felix; and when I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought a charge against him, demanding his condemnation.  I replied that it was not Roman practice to hand a man over before he had been confronted with his accusers and given an opportunity of answering the charge.  So when they had come here with me I lost no time, but took my seat in court the very next day and ordered the man to be brought before me.  When his accusers rose to speak, they brought none of the charges I was expecting; they merely had certain points of religion, and about someone called Jesus, a dead man whom Paul alleged to be alive.  Finding myself out of depth in such discussions, I asked if he was willing to go to Jerusalem an stand trial on these issues.  But Paul appealed to be remanded in custody for his imperial majesty’s decision, and I ordered him to be detained until I could send him to the emperor.

Psalm 103:1-2, 19-22 (Revised English Bible):

Bless the LORD, my soul;

with all my being I bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, my soul,

and forget none of his benefits.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

his kingly power over the whole world.

Bless the LORD, you his angels,

mighty in power, who do his bidding and obey his command.

Bless the LORD, all you his hosts;

his ministers who do his will.

Bless the LORD, all created things,

everywhere in his dominion.

Bless the LORD, my soul.

John 21:15-19 (Anchor Bible):

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus addressed Simon Peter,

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?

He said,

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then feed my lambs.

A second time Jesus repeated the question,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

He said,

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then tend my sheep.

For the third time Jesus asked,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked for the third time,

Do you love me?

So he said to him,

Lord, you know everything; you know well that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then feed my little sheep.  Truly I assure you, when you were a young man, you used to fasten your own belt and set off for wherever you wished.  But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.

(What he said indicated the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.)  After these words, Jesus told him,

Follow me

The Collect:

O loving Father, grant that your Church, being gathered by your Holy Spirit, may be dedicated more fully to your service, and live united in your love, according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Peter had denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion.  And he affirmed Jesus three times after the resurrection.  Yet there is more taking place in the reading from the Johannine Gospel.

The verbs for “love” vary slightly in the Greek language.  Commentaries I have consulted note this fact without assigning any significance to it, stating that these are synonyms, while noting that ancient and modern scholars have understood the different Greek words as being important.  Anyhow, the first two times Jesus and Peter converse Jesus asks if Peter has agape love for him, and Peter replies that he has phileo love for Jesus.  Agape is unconditional, sacrificial love–the kind of love God has for us.  Agape comes from the agapan, which is what John uses in the text.  (Agapan can mean “to prefer or to esteem.”)  Phileo is friendship and affection, which indicates passion, not preference.  The third time, however, Jesus asked if Peter hadphileo love for him, and Peter replied that he had phileo love for Jesus.

So, if one assumes that differing Greek words indicate more than the use of synonyms, here is what the Johannine Gospel depicts.  The first two times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you prefer me to fishing and fishing boats?” and Peter’s replies indicated passion in the sense of friendship and brotherly love.  The third time, however, Jesus and Peter referred to phileo love.

Yet, as scholars of the Fourth Gospel indicate, that work uses agape (and its linguistic variations) and phileo (and its linguistic variations) interchangeably.

As a devotional exercise, however, I ask you, O reader, a spiritual question:  Do you have mere affection for Jesus, or do you prefer him to the alternatives in your life?  Follow the question wherever the Holy Spirit leads.

(Thanks to Father Raymond E. Brown’s commentary on John in sorting out Greek words, by the way.)

Both Peter and Paul became martyrs–Peter by crucifixion.  Considering himself unworthy to die as Jesus did, he was crucified upside-down.

The account from Acts becomes more understandable if one knows who these people were.  Herod Agrippa II was a client king within the Roman Empire.  Think of the British rule in India through 1947; London ruled parts of the subcontinent directly and others through natives.  Rome followed the same practice in the Holy Land.  Herod Agrippa II (reigned 53-100) was a great-grandson of Herod the Great (d. 4 B.C.E.), who had ordered the infamous massacre of the Holy Innocents.  Herod Agrippa II “ruled” part of his great-grandfather’s territory and was incestuous with Bernice, his sister, who went on to become the mistress of the Roman Emperor Titus (reigned 79-81).  Also, this Herod appointed the high priest.

Festus was the new Roman governor of Judea.  The author of Luke-Acts depicts him as a conscientious man who tried to follow the letter of the law, rule honorably, and clean up messes inherited from Felix, his predecessor.  Paul did not convince either Festus or Herod Agrippa II of the rightness of his cause, but, as Herod observed, Paul could have been freed if he had not asserted his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the Emperor, who, unfortunately, was Nero (reigned 54-68).  (Yet Paul had a divine mandate to go to Rome.)  At Rome Paul met his death by beheading, although Acts ends before that event.

Paul preferred Jesus to the alternatives in his life.  And, at his end, so did Peter.





Adapted from this post:


Posted March 30, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 25, John 21, Psalm 103

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